The zendo brimmed with friendly witnesses as Shinei took the vows of priesthood.

As we prepared for the ceremony, she sat zazen all morning in a small room on a straw tatami mat in crisp white robes with head freshly liberated from hair, feeling that perhaps this was indicative of her ordination- sitting with the stillness and determination of Buddha as the world churned and busied around her. Though she couldn’t help perking up as she recognized the timbre of old friends arriving outside.

Then she entered the meditation hall and we saw her with a shaved head for the first time, looking so resolute, solemn, and peaceful. “My mind really does feel somehow clearer without it,” she said later. The new priestess beamed as she got to perform three full bows to her mother Valerie who was able to attend from The Amber assisted living home.

Standing before the sangha, tugging and fiddling with her entangled robes, Shinei pleaded, “I’ve never worn this before!” Chozen smiled, “We call this the mindfulness robe, because you have to be meticulous when you bow or you’ll fall over.” Shinei recalled afterward her only moment of doubt when she put on all the garments to realize how heavy they’d be. What did I do?! she laughed to herself. Then with certainty she vowed to follow the precepts and Buddhist path of practice, dedicate herself to the benefit of Great Vow for five years, however it may need her. And a respectful hush fell over the zendo as she vowed not to rest, lifetime after lifetime, until every last sentient being on earth is freed from the wheel of suffering.

What will be her hardest thing to give up? “My to-do list,” she said. “I’ve known two things for a long time- that I want to be free and I want to be of service. So given those, my path to ordination came naturally. But now I have to let go of some of my many projects!” After the ceremony we danced to a lively marimba concert, and in all the excitement Shinei stepped up to play and plum forget her part. She soon remembered, but it wouldn’t have mattered if she didn’t. We could’ve stood there all afternoon, perfectly content just watching her glow.

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